School board: A K-4 first? Panel tries to get project back on track with plan for phased construction

Jessica Fuller • Apr 5, 2018 at 11:11 PM

Another plan for the proposed Jonesborough K-8 school is on its way to the Washington County Commission.

The Washington County Board of Education passed a scheme — what board member Mary Beth Dellinger called "scheme 4" — in a 5-4 vote at Thursday night's meeting.

Board members Mike Masters, Todd Ganger, Clarence Mabe and Chairman Jack Leonard voted against the motion made by Dellinger and seconded by Philip McLain.

The scheme, Dellinger pointed out at the beginning of the discussion, is a modified version of scheme 2, which would eliminate the debated saucer-shaped portion of the existing elementary school and build a new school onto the portion added in the 1990s. Architect Tony Street estimated that overall project to be $6 million over the allotted $20.6 million budget, but Dellinger proposed breaking the project down into two phases to fit within the budget constraints.

The plan would build the cafeteria, gym, kitchens and bottom wing of the school first, eliminating the top two wings until a later date. That would leave the facility at a 660-student capacity and 30 classrooms, which would limit the school to housing grades K-4 until the rest of the school is built.

Dellinger included in her motion a plan to sell the old Boones Creek school properties in the future to help fund the remaining $6 million of the building. David Hammond chimed in the possibility of combining Midway and Asbury under one roof, like the current Jonesborough middle school building, to consolidate facilities and sell unused buildings to fund the project.

Ganger pointed out that in order to use the Jonesborough Middle School building, it would still have to be refurbished. He said he was also concerned that this plan could fit within the budget, as Street said he would need a few more weeks to crunch numbers to give a final financial estimate.

"How can we vote on this until we know how much its going to cost?" He asked during the meeting.

Dellinger said she felt it was necessary to come out of Thursday's meeting with a plan for fear of losing the adjacent McCoy property, where sports fields are proposed to be built.

The county Health, Education and Welfare Committee deferred action on the purchase of that property at their meeting Thursday morning.

Grades 5-8 would remain in the existing Jonesborough Middle School building. The issue with that, Mabe pointed out, is in need of a $500,000 roof in the next couple of years.

Hammond was wary of the plan at first, saying he didn't want to see the rest of the project fall to the wayside and be delayed longer than a few years. Annette Buchanan reminded other board members that phased projects have been done in the past with Lamar and South Central, and said she didn't see why it wouldn't work for this school.

"I want a commitment that it will be finished, I dont want to wait three, four, five years," Hammond said.

The scheme will be presented to the Health, Education and Welfare Committee's May meeting. Board members proposed a called meeting once Street comes up with the final numbers for the project, which he estimated would take about three weeks.

During a break in the meeting, Street said he would also need to consider the logistics of the plan and whether the round portion of the building could be left standing during construction or if safety concerns would require it to be razed first.

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